Jan 302010
 
 January 30, 2010  Breaches, Featured News, U.S.

A Notre Dame University alumnus, Gary Caruso, has taken to the Web to question how Notre Dame University Alumni Association records were obtained by Illinois Republican Gubernatorial candidate Andy McKenna’s campaign.

According to Caruso, McKenna is an alumnus of NDU and those alumni who were in his class have found themselves on the receiving end of campaign mailings that used email addresses and/or postal addresses known only to the NDU Alumni Association.

Caruso writes:

…. the inappropriate mining of Notre Dame alumni data by other Domers in support of McKenna is a breach of political ethics inexcusable for any Notre Dame graduate. The University officially bans the use of lists for solicitations, and institutes electronic limits on downloads to a maximum of 500 files. Unfortunately, the McKenna campaign circumvented those limitations which ultimately phished me into their digital campaign net.

Last Friday, at University President Fr. John Jenkins’ Washington, D.C., reception following the Right to Life March, I sat at length discussing the e-mail data breach with several University officials including those from our alumni association office. They emphasized their guiding principle of neutrality and privacy protections with all proprietary data collected from alumni. They further clarified the University’s policy to me and acknowledged that they are well aware of how McKenna supporters maneuvered around the firewall limitations. I left our discussion with the impression that the breach’s loophole had been closed once and for all.

As one who has tumbled within the rough world of campaigns and developed a thick political skin, the data breach initially in my mind was more of a campaign spam one-ups-man-ship until I heard complaints from others who considered the incident a breach of the University’s trust. Moreover, campaign tactics do not excuse or lessen the deleterious effect such digital maneuvering has within our alumni ranks. For many who leave their politics at the edge of campus, this is not just the phishing of alumni e-mail addresses. It is a break in the trust that they placed in their support for Notre Dame because they believe that they personally are being used as a commodity — good only until the candidacy of McKenna (or any other soliciting alumni) ends.

Caruso’s use of the words “pilfered” and “phish” may not be accurate as there has been no explanation by the NDU Alumni Association as to how this breach occurred and the alumni association has not responded to a request for an explanation as to how this breach occurred.

Update of Feb. 1: I was sent a copy of the McKennaSolicitationsolicitation letter. (pdf) According to the recipient, it was sent to all 1700 NDU classmates including those who did not reside in Illinois. Neither NDU nor McKenna’s campaign have responded to requests for clarification of how what appears to be a privacy breach occurred.

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